Clare Potter, shown above, was one of America's leading fashion designers of the 1930s and 40s. She is perhaps best known for her sportswear and her inventive use of color combinations.
Potter was born in New Jersey in 1903. She studied costume design at the Pratt Institute, but left before graduating to work for Edward L. Mayer, a wholesale dress manufacturer in New York. She worked for Mayer from about 1926-29.
In 1930, Potter went to work for Charles E. Nudelman, Inc., a maker of affordable ready-to-wear garments. It was here that she was given name recognition, using the elided name Clarepotter in advertisements and the press. She was one of the first American designers to achieve name recognition.
Potter received the Lord & Taylor Award for distinguished designing in 1937, a Neiman Marcus Award in 1939, and a Coty Award in 1946.
Potter wore the kind of clothes she made, simple and unfussy sportswear with no trimmings or decoration aside from their distinctive color combinations. Even her evening wear was derived from sportswear, often made as separates. She was the first to introduce an evening sweater as a layering option.
In 1948, Potter formed her own company, Timbertop, in partnership with magazine editor Martha Stout. The company name came from the turkey farm that Potter owned with her husband in W. Nyack, NY. By the 1950s, Potter was the sole owner of her own label Clare Potter. She worked from a converted horse barn on her farm. She would go to New York City twice a year to show her new line and between times, store buyers would travel out to the farm to place orders.
Clare Potter continued designing into the early 60s. She and her husband retired to a new Japanese style home in Fort Ann, New York. She lived there until her death in January, 1999.
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